There are those Sundays when you get started slowly, and feel a little antsy actually sitting and reading the paper so you decide to go on a really long run. You come home to a Sam in the kitchen meticulously chopping cabbage and green onion, boiling eggs and catching up with his mom on the phone. Suddenly, you’re no longer antsy. The sun is out and it feels like the best, slowest kind of Sunday.
That’s what happened this past weekend. We even had the back door open and the heat turned off. It was a big day here in Seattle. There are many things that Sam has made for me this year that I’d love to recreate on my own or even share with you, but most of them aren’t really written down. Sam’s theory on cooking, baking and recipes in general is that you need to have a feel for them more than anything. This is not my strength. He believes in having good base recipes that you just have a sense for and then adapt from there. You want to be able to make a great scone and pancake whether you’re in your own kitchen or out in a remote cabin during the summer. You want to be able to roast vegetables, make salad dressing, cook a simple fish, and make cornbread and jammy pastry. He does these without a hard-and-fast recipe. They’re basics in our house, and he’s been working hard to get me to be more comfortable shutting the cookbooks and learning to trust my own instincts in remembering and recreating them.
This coleslaw? Sam wanted me to make sure to tell you that this is most definitely a dish where you stock up on the ingredients, but use your intuition to guide you regarding the amounts. This isn’t fine cooking or precise baking. He added a little more mustard this time around and we threw in all of our parsley so it wouldn’t go to waste. It’s not the same coleslaw that he might have made for himself a month ago, but it was delicious all the same. For this reason, the recipe listed below is really a rough guide, so set aside a bit of time and chop and taste and adjust as you like.
Sure, coleslaw is no Salted Caramel Cupcake. It’s no Deluxe Brownie or Shaker Lemon Pie, but it can turn a Sunday around just like that, and actually keeps in the fridge beautifully for a few weekday lunches. Unlike most coleslaw recipes I’ve tried, Sam’s version has bits of hard-boiled egg, a smattering of green onion, celery and poppy seeds, and a healthy swath of Italian parsley. He dresses it with both mustard and mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper, and tastes and adjusts often as he goes. Remember in my last post how I said that I often throw together meals and that many folks don’t necessarily define this as actual cooking? Well if I throw them together, Sam most certainly composes them. He chops vegetables much finer than I do, he takes more time and has more patience. For this reason, this is one most lovely coleslaw. I can’t wait for you to try it.
As we sat in the nook on Sunday afternoon finessing this coleslaw, it was hard not to think about what we’d been up to one year ago–the weekend I picked Sam up from Point Reyes Station and it all began. A year of plane trips and late night phone calls, visits and holidays. On Monday we celebrated our anniversary together with a very special dinner at Spinasse filled with buttery pasta, good wine, rabbit meatballs, and a goat cheese mousse with local rhubarb. Waking up yesterday with big to-do lists, we got right to work: me running errands for Marge, he working on a design project. As I sat flustered in traffic, I couldn’t stop thinking about the dinner we shared and how much I wished I were back at that candlelit table, slowly ambling away an unusually warm evening with Sam. But in between those meals, those long conversations, those glasses of wine, there has to be wonderfully basic food to sustain us. Quiet Sundays, boiled eggs and cabbage, The Book Review and calls to catch up with your mom. Sam: I hope this upcoming year is filled with many more bowls of coleslaw (and banana pancakes too, please). Together. On Sundays. As I know it will be.
Chop the cabbage as fine as you have thepatience for.
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, green onion, parsley, celery and eggs. Toss to combine. Add the mustard and mayonnaise and stir together. Taste to see where it stands; add more mustard or mayonnaise if you wish. Season with salt and pepper. Finish with a generous dusting of poppy seeds and mix the whole thing together.
Store covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Early Fall Baking
Last weekend we went apple picking up near Yakima, a good three hours east of Seattle. We drove over to Harmony Orchards with our friends Brandi and John and met up with many other groups and families to amble about the rows and rows of apples in the unusually warm sun. We missed the annual picking last year as we were on our honeymoon, but the previous year was the one in which we made the colossal mistake of picking over 70 pounds of apples. I've never made so much applesauce in my life. This year we practiced restraint in bringing home a cool 38 pounds and after getting them all situated in the basement, I started to leaf through a few cookbooks looking for a great apple recipe -- something, preferably, that used quite a few apples, wasn't too sweet and could double as breakfast or dessert (really, the best kind of recipe). And that's exactly what we have in these Custardy Apple Squares.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.
I rarely make muffins at home and never order one when I'm out and about as I find they're often far too sweet and never truly that satisfying. I realize, too, in looking back at my cookbook that there's only one muffin recipe throughout. Case in point: I'm tentative on muffins. But not these. We've been pretty thrilled to have this healthier version of Morning Glory muffins on the counter this week; they have little bits of apple, raisins, walnuts, and grated carrot and are cloaked in a buttery oat crumble topping -- quite the opposite of your boring coffeeshop fare. I thought long and hard about doing a Valentine's post, some festive cookie or confection that would be share-worthy this weekend, but the more we talked about what our weekend would really look like, it involved something special for breakfast instead. I don't remember the last time a Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday, so we have big plans to have breakfast in bed and if your plans are even remotely similar, these muffins would be a fine inclusion.
I generally work on weekends. It's something I've come to terms with only because I know it won't last forever. I write. I bake. But those two things don't always pay the bills, so I work retail on the weekends and dream of the day when I'll have a Sunday like this one: